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Colo. to strike ‘excited delirium’ from police training documents

The terms “cocaine psychosis” and “sudden in-custody death” will also be removed

Elijah McClain Trial

FILE - Paramedics Jeremy Cooper, left, and Peter Cichuniec, right, attend an arraignment at the Adams County Justice Center in Brighton, Colo., on Jan. 20, 2023. Opening statements are scheduled Wednesday, Nov. 29, in the third and final trial over the 2019 death of Elijah McClain, who died after he was stopped by police in suburban Denver. (Andy Cross/The Denver Post via AP, File)

Andy Cross/AP

By Joanna Putman

DENVER — The Colorado Peace Officers Standards and Training board voted unanimously to remove the term “excited delirium” from all training documents starting in January, CPR reported.

The decision was announced as two Colorado paramedics face felony charges in the case of Elijah McClain, who died after being injected with an overdose of ketamine. The paramedics stated in court that they were following what was considered “excited delirium” protocol during the 2019 incident, according to the report.

The medical term has been the subject of scrutiny in recent years. The American Medical Association stated in 2021 that current evidence does not support the diagnosis in any case, according to the report.

This year, the National Association of Medical Examiners called for its members to stop diagnosing “excited delirium” as a cause of death and the American College of Emergency Physicians disavowed the term.

The terms “cocaine psychosis” and “sudden in-custody death” will also be removed from training, the Colorado board decided.

“Students will learn and understand procedures for first aid and transfer to medical care of subjects who are in custody,” the state document said. “The students will learn and understand law enforcement roles in violent encounters with subjects in altered mental states or a justifiable medical emergency.”

Fort Collins Police Chief Jeff Swoboda, who is on the board, said that training will shift to refer instead to “suspects in distress,” according to the report.

Related content: Excited delirium: Understanding the evolution away from a controversial term